NLP and the Master Myth

So here”s the deal…..

You pay a trainer £8,000 and in ten days or so you will be an NLP Master Practitioner and Trainer!

Ummm — convinced?

Would you buy into it?


Well, I”m not sure I would, either…

But you read the magazines and search the web for NLP Training and it won”t be long before you come up with something very close to that kind if offer.

The number of NLP trainers offering “intensive’ NLP courses seems to be growing — and I think to the detriment of NLP. A web search will reveal 5, 6 and 7 day “intensives’ and even the odd “correspondence’ course in NLP.

So what is being said by these trainers and training providers?

The skill set required to be a practitioner of NLP can be delivered in 30 hours or so and, in the case of correspondence courses, with no need to interact with anyone else?

I have seen advertisements that promise ‘complete mastery” of NLP in 12 days.

That’s 5 days to acquire your “Practitioner” certificate a break of two days and a further 5 days to get your “Masters’, without any previous experience in any related discipline!

Is it any wonder that the therapeutic and the academic community are suspicious of NLP and the motives of some of its trainers.

Mastery of anything is not a destination, it is a journey.

The true Master knows how much they don’t know and is able to ask relevant questions to continually extend their understanding.

This culture of ‘intensive training” is perhaps motivated by something more than the desire to spread the NLP message — let”s face it, economically it’s better for the trainer!

When quizzed about the make up of these intensive courses you will probably be given a range of “reasons” about how and why it can be done….

“the unconscious mind learns at lightening quick speeds”

“the days on the course are supplemented by tapes and books and pre-reading”

“the quantum nature of mind means that we need not waste our time in the same way that traditional teaching methods do!”

Now, come on, stop and think for a moment!

Are these claims based by any empirical evidence?

How do we know that these marketing statements are based on anything more than hyperbole and rhetoric? Moreover perhaps any appeal to the ‘quantum nature” of anything outside particle physics needs to be treated with all the suspicion we can muster.

Quantum Physics, like Jungian Psychology, has become the darling of the New Age Alternative Therapy movement and is often quoted “out of context” and with very little real knowledge of the subject. Heck, even quantum physicists are struggling with quantum physics and that’s their life’s work.

Strikes me that this ‘cult of instant mastery’ devalues the efforts, achievements and skills of those who dedicate themselves to the pursuit of learning, growth, change and development.

Look at this another way, would you think twice about letting a plumber, electrician, mechanic or other craftsperson anywhere near your home, car or your precious objects after only 5 days of training (oh and some reading and video watching) or who had simply completed a correspondence course?

Then why let such folk anywhere near your mind, your emotions or your life?

Now, and here is the rub….

It is possible to acquire skills fairly rapidly….

It is possible to learn factual material rapidly….

And if, you have an existing level of competences, it is possible to integrate these new skills and learnings into your behaviours…..

It will all depend upon the level of your prior learning and experience?

How many of these rapid training courses really apply APL criteria (assessment of prior learning) to ensure that the folks on the course are equipped to take on board, consider and apply this new knowledge and skill set? Is any APL consideration simply about the size and depth of the aspirants wallet?

Think back to the early days of NLP a wonder about the early trainees and masters. What backgrounds did they have? What related training and experience did they bring when they started getting to grips with NLP processes and tools?

For me the scariest thing is that someone who has no background in any form of formal, psychological, counselling or therapeutic processes can be given a certificate to apparently allow them to “mess with the minds” of people in need after 5 days of factual training and therapeutic experience!

Does that sound right to you?

It’s even scarier to think that those 5 day practitioners, 5 day masters and 5 days trainers can run and accredit courses for other NLP wannabes.

It is these folk who have experience of the ‘miracle’ of the ‘unconscious learning process’; have been filled with pop psychology “myth” (most of it misquoted, poorly referenced and taken out of context) who are ready to propagate the message of the 15 Day Guru…..

I mean it’s a great business model, but hardly the basis for developing credibility.

Where in these intensive courses is the time for structured reflection, research, skill practice, trainer feedback on that practice, the opportunity to work with a range of people, the opportunity to present case studies of work you have actually done with ‘real people’?


No where!

It’s all based around ‘role playing’ the tools with folks on the course (who are compliant and know what is expected of them), seeing trainer demonstrations or watching videos of ‘experts’ doing their thing.

All of these techniques are valid approaches to learning by the way and they should be part of all kinds of training BUT if this is the be-all-and-and-end-all of the complete training package then for me it is deficient and lacking in professional integrity.

It is one thing to attend a four day seminar on new approaches and techniques to explore for yourself, and totally another to present that same seminar as a professional level training equipping a person to go from “first principles” to Certified Practitioner.


If you are considering NLP training at any level, please look carefully at what is on offer and what you are actually signing up for. For any kind of professional recognition beyond that of the NLP training body (which is a law unto itself and may or may not subscribe to voluntary regulation) the minimum level of training for Practitioner Level seems to be:-

120 hours direct classroom/ workshop training

12 + hours of supervised case study

Submission of a reflective learning log (personal journal)

Does the intensive course you are considering provide at least that?

Put another way would you let your car have a major service or MOT with anyone with less theoretical and hands on training that the bare minimum listed above?

Alan /|\

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Writing about personal development, the mind and future histories. New articles every Monday. Website :

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Dr Alan Jones PhD FRSA

Dr Alan Jones PhD FRSA

Writing about personal development, the mind and future histories. New articles every Monday. Website :

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